Archive for the ‘Demographics’ Category

Hans Rosling — RIP

February 7, 2017

Hans Rosling passed away today. He was born July 27, 1948 and was just 68.

He was, I think, to be compared with Richard Feynman for his ability to communicate difficult concepts to laypeople.


From Gapminder:

Sad to announce: Hans Rosling passed away this morning

We are extremely sad to announce that Professor Hans Rosling died this morning. Hans suffered from a pancreatic cancer which was diagnosed one year ago. He passed away early Tuesday morning, February 7, 2017, surrounded by his family in Uppsala, Sweden.

Eleven years ago, the three of us, Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling & Anna Rosling Rönnlund founded Gapminder. In 2007 Hans decided to “drop out” of university to work only 5% as professor at Karolinska Institute. That was a great decision. The 95% he worked for Gapminder made him a world famous public educator, or Edutainer as he liked to call it.

Across the world, millions of people use our tools and share our vision of a fact-based worldview that everyone can understand. We know that many will be saddened by this message. Hans is no longer alive, but he will always be with us and his dream of a fact-based worldview, we will never let die!

We kindly ask you to respect our need for privacy during this sad time of mourning. Gapminder will announce info about memorial plans later.

Stay updated on Gapminder’s twitter and facebook

— Anna R. Rönnlund & Ola Rosling, Co-founders of Gapminder

For more info, please contact Karolinska Institutet.


Sweden’s population will exceed 10 million today

January 20, 2017

The Swedish population will pass 10 million later today.

In 1969, 8 million people lived in Sweden. It took 35 years before the population passed 9 million in 2004. But only 13 years later, sometime in the first quarter of 2017, we will be more than 10 million inhabitants. Rapid growth will continue in the coming decades and we can be 12 million already by 2040.

The Swedish Central Bureau of Statistics has a population clock running on its website, and at 0700 on Friday 20th January 2017 reads:


Swedish population clock at 0700, 20170120

It should reach 10 million by around noon.

UPDATE: 10am, 20th January 2017:

20170120 1000

20170120 1000

The population increase in the last 50 years has been quite “healthy” and robust in demographic terms.

Sweden Population - SCB

Sweden Population – SCB

In Europe, Sweden has perhaps the most robust development of demographics with respect to the ratio of non-working (under 19 and over 65) to working population (20 -65). And that has been thanks, in spite of falling fertility rates, mainly to immigration and the slightly higher fertility rate among newcomers (though that comes down quickly to the prevailing rate). Currently around 17% of Sweden’s population was born outside Sweden. This will increase to be over 20% by 2040.

The Swedish pensions system is less under pressure than in Southern and Eastern Europe. Even Germany and France and the UK have a somewhat lower pensions risk because of net immigration. However in all these countries an increase of the regular pension age from 65 to 70 can be expected before 2040.


The average age of all humans alive is about 32 years (and increasing)

December 23, 2016

The average age (mean not median) is about 32 years in 2016 and is increasing by about 1 month every year ( about 1 year per decade). It will be almost 42 years by 2100.

graphic by The Economist

graphic by The Economist

The median age (50% of population greater than this age) is 30.1 years in 2016 (male: 29.4 years,
female: 30.9 years). The median age is growing just a little faster than the average age as global fertility declines and will be about 37 by 2050.

graphic by Pew Research

graphic by Pew Research


Population implosion has started

February 26, 2016

The 1960s and 70s was a period when the alarmists reigned supreme. It was the time of The Limits to Growth, peak-oil, peak-food, peak-resources, peak-water and the coming doom of the earth. Not one of their catastrophe scenarios has come to pass or shows any signs of coming to pass. The fear-mongering by alarmists about the catastrophic effects of the population explosion has been one of the most shameful examples of the prostitution of science by individual academics (like Paul Ehrlich) and cowardly institutions looking for sensational copy.

The fear-mongering of the 1960s and 1970s has continued through the 80s and 90s and beyond, but now about climate and bio-diversity and mass extinction and the ozone-hole and GM crops. These catastrophe scenarios will also gradually die out as it becomes apparent that they are just the ravings of those who make a living out of spreading alarm. The alarms are unjustifiable, but untestable, and each tends to take about 3 decades to burn itself out.

Paul Ehrlich in his The Population Bomb of 1968: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate …”

Within 50 years the world will be dealing with the challenges posed by the consequences of an ongoing population implosion in developed parts of the world (which will then include India and China) and the total world population will be in decline by 2100. The cold, relentless hand of demographics is inexorable and the decline is already visible in many countries.

Fastest shrinking countries WEF

Fastest shrinking countries WEF

The future decline in Japan’s population has been recognised as inevitable for over 20 years and social engineering has not succeeded in reversing the inevitable. Now Japan has entered negative territory for the first time since the 1920s — entirely as expected.

Japan poulation decline - Asahi Shimbun

Japan population decline – Asahi Shimbun

In due course the fear-mongers will moan about the coming death of the species due to the population implosion, but this too shall pass. After about 100 years of a slow population decline I expect we shall see a new equilibrium for population and birth-rate, where longevity, fertility measures, incentives and a bright new world of genetic screening will be part of the mix.

By 2200, a form of non-coercive eugenics will no longer be a dirty word, but will instead seem eminently common-sensical.



When the population implosion threatens …..

October 6, 2015

By 2050, virtually all parts of the world, except some parts of Africa, will be witnessing a decline in population. Until then, migrations of peoples will serve to maintain the ratio of productive to “non-productive” people. (By then, the non-productive will probably be defined as those under 20 and those over about 70). But going forward, migration from declining source populations will no longer be able to provide even a temporary solution.

The fundamental decline in fertility rates will be a consequence of the widespread acceptance of women’s rights, the increasing liberation of women in Asia and Africa, and the ready availability of contraception and abortion. Increasing longevity will mitigate population decline to some extent but will exacerbate the declining ratio of productive/unproductive population. The threat will be of an accelerating decline. Alarmism will no longer be about “population explosions” but about the coming “population implosion”. The decline of rural populations will threaten food supplies, though mitigated by increasing automations and genetically modified crops. Growth will be limited, not so much by capital or raw materials, but by the availability of personnel. In developed countries, tax revenues will stagnate or begin to decline.

Sustainable communities, somewhat smaller than the current nation states, will start husbanding their people resources and their (local) tax revenues. “National” programs – health, education and even infrastructure – will increasingly shift to be “local”. The immigration issue of the day will be about preventing any influx of non-productive peoples. Incentives will be offered to attract productive businesses and people. Some isolated areas already below critical populations or population-mixes, which survive only on subsidies, will be “abandoned” financially. That will, in turn, shift people to areas which exceed the critical mass for the provision of welfare and other services. Successful communities will be those which attract productive people and provision of local jobs, education and health services will be the competitive factors. Education services provided will be linked to performance. Health services to be provided for any individual will be judged by the cost of the service against the benefit of the individual’s remaining productive life. Health services for the elderly will gradually be removed from welfare services and will all have to be purchased. Assisted deaths for the elderly will be as readily available as abortions.

The globalisation paradigm which would have been in effect for a century will shift to a new “localisation” meme.

As power to raise revenues is devolved increasingly to smaller, sustainable communities, “national” defense budgets will be slashed. Expansionism will no longer make any sense. Conflicts may still occur over resources (water, rare metals, rare earths ….) but will decline as population declines. Virtually every local government will then be engaged in trying to increase fertility rates. Tax breaks and extra payments will be available for every child. “Political correctness” will shift to the having of many children. But all these measures will not have much effect in increasing fertility rates.

Surrogacy will pay very well until the artificial womb is developed. That will be the game changer. Then community governments will move to control artificial fertilisation from donor sperm and eggs. The birth of children will move into the “public” sphere. Genetic scanning will be increasingly used prior to allowing a foetus to develop in an artificial womb. Humans will then only be required to supply their sperm or their eggs. They will no longer be required to perform as parents. Mating will no longer be an activity connected to the production of children. The children will be brought up in community creches. The fertility rate will become a completely controllable parameter. Eventually, so will the genetic make up of the children being produced. Some will have their genes tailored to meet some specific community need. Others will be mass-produced when “drones” are required in large numbers. The most powerful committee in any community will then be that which chooses which egg will be fertilised by which sperm.

It is population decline which will lead inevitably and remorselessly to the Brave New World.

Europe’s refugees just follow the ancient routes for the peopling of Europe in the Neolithic

September 17, 2015

Compared to the population of Europe of 740 million (500 million in the EU), the total refugee numbers of some 400,000 are not large enough to talk about “invasions” or being “over-run”. (In the short-term numbers may, of course, be locally overwhelming). But the routes being travelled now are the same routes that were used for the peopling of Europe in the neolithic. Neanderthals probably retreated westwards as the hunter gatherers from central Asia arrived. They had been absorbed and were long gone as a separate “race” by the time the 2 main agricultural waves arrived.

And now the refugee numbers are beginning to be large enough to be a not insignificant impact on the populations of Europe. It could well be a new “peopling of Europe”. Or it could turn out to be not so large or important. But history will probably show that the migrations of peoples into Europe in the early 22nd century was of similar importance to the neolithic migrations. History will probably show that this  migration is what stemmed the downward population spiral that was troubling Europe.

In ancient times –

First came the movement of peoples westwards into Europe. This was during the paleolithic some 40,000 – 20,000 years ago with hunter-gatherers coming from the east. The “admixture” events between the Neanderthals and modern humans could have been along the westward moving front.

Then came the advent of agriculture, starting earlier but in earnest perhaps about 10,000 years ago. Genetic evidence indicates 2 waves of farmers from the east who then mixed with the hunter-gatherers already there.

So it would seem that hunter-gatherers mixed with farmers from the east who spread across Europe about 9,000 years ago. They formed the first agricultural settlements. Then came the invasion of the nomadic Yamnaya culture around 5,000 years ago. The Yamnayans were much more individualistic than the peoples they replaced and gave rise to the prominence of the nuclear family and the development of large family holdings of cleared lands, rather than the clusters of people in village settlements. They came on horses and brought livestock. But by about 4,000 years ago they too were overrun by the warlike Sintashta.

peopling of europe in the neolithic - via daily mail

peopling of europe in the neolithic – via daily mail

and now the current refugee crisis has about 400,000 people moving north westwards –

Business InsiderAccording to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), EU countries received 437,384 asylum applications from January to July. The UNHRC also reports that during that time, Germany was by far the country that received the most asylum applications, with 188,486. Hungary came second in place with 65,415 applications, and Sweden took third with 33,234 applications. Italy was fourth with 30,223, and France was fifth with 29,832 demands. Many refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war and ISIS have been entering the European Union through Greece — 258,365 refugees entered Greece by boat so far this year — after going through Turkey.

europe's refugee crisis - business insider graphics

europe’s refugee crisis – business insider graphics

Nothing new under the sun.

How Syrian refugees are helping to solve a German conundrum

September 8, 2015

Germany is now perceived as the land of “sanctuary” in Europe, which was once a position occupied by the UK for many years. Certainly after the xenophobia exhibited by the Hungarian government (but not by all Hungarians) and the reluctance of some other European governments to accept refugees (Czech Republic, Poland, Serbia, Denmark …..), Angela Merkel has won many brownie points by exhibiting a generosity not visible from other countries. In fact the response means that Germany now occupies the moral high ground. By announcing that they can take up to 500,000 per year for several years, they make other EU countries look like “hardhearted cheapskates”. The UK response, with 20,000 in 5 years makes Ebeneezer Scrooge look generous.  Even the US is shown up by German actions as just one of the group of countries who speak highly about the value of compassion but fail to walk the talk.

The Guardian:

Germany could take 500,000 refugees each year for “several years”, the country’s vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, has said, as fresh clashes broke out overnight between police and refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos and thousands of people gathered amid chaotic scenes on the Greek border with Macedonia.

“I believe we could surely deal with something in the order of half a million for several years,” he told ZDF public television. “I have no doubt about that, maybe more.” Germany expects to receive 800,000 asylum seekers this year, four times the total for 2014.

But this generosity is not entirely due to altruism.

In March this year I posted about a study by the Bertelsmann Stiftung which pointed out how Germany needed to have an immigration level of 500,000 per year till 2050 to overcome labour shortages and compensate for an ageing population. It pointed out that “efforts to attract skilled workers from non-EU countries should be intensified.”

The report also pointed out that it would be difficult to maintain the level of skilled immigration needed. It would seem that for Germany to be fairly generous with its approach to Syrian refugees is not just altruism but may well be in Germany’s self-interest. The Syrians generally have a much higher level of education and skills than is evident from refugees originating from Africa and those that stay in Germany may well be able to enter the productive work force much faster.

The Syrian refugees help solve a conundrum that was faced by Germany.

Zuwanderungsbedarf aus Drittstaaten in Deutschland bis 2050

Press Release: Without immigrants, the potential labor force would sink from approximately 45 million today to less than 29 million by 2050 – a decline of 36 percent. This gap cannot be closed without immigration. Even if women were to be employed at the same rate as men, and the retirement age was increased to 70 in 2035, the number of potential workers in the country would rise by only about 4.4 million.

In 2013, a total of 429,000 more people came to Germany than left the country. Last year, the net total was 470,000, the Federal Statistical Office reports. According to the study, net immigration at this level would be sufficient for at least the next 10 years to keep the country’s potential labor force at a constant level. From that time onward, however, the need for immigrants will grow, because the baby-boomer generation will be entering retirement. One out of two of today’s skilled workers with professional training will have left the working world by 2030. …

….. the current high levels of immigration from EU countries (2013: around 300,000) will soon decline significantly, as demographic change is shrinking populations across the European Union, and because incentives to emigrate in crisis-stricken countries will decline with economic recovery. The experts forecast an annual average of just 70,000 immigrants or fewer from EU counties by 2050. For this reason, efforts to attract skilled workers from non-EU countries should be intensified. …

But Angela Merkel is implementing today actions that will be needed by nearly all European countries suffering from a declining fertility and a rapidly ageing population. It is no accident that Germany is probably best placed in Europe to have a chance of maintaining the critical ratio of its working population to its supported population (under 15s and over 65s) beyond 2050.

I begin to see Angela Merkel as being much more long-sighted and much more of a visionary than I have ever given her credit for.

Indian fertility rates – across all religions – are the lowest they have ever been

August 25, 2015

The Indian Census Commission today released its report on the Population by Religious Communities of Census 2011. (The Census 2011 dashboard is here). Across all religions, fertility rates have never been lower. By 2050 it is almost certain that all religious groups will have fertility rates lower than the replenishment rate. The demographics for the next 70-80 years are pretty well fixed and now can only be significantly altered by drastic measures (such as mass sterilisation or one-child policies)

While Chinese population has just peaked and is already in decline, the Indian population is expected to peak a little before 2050. Both China and India are then expected to have significant population decline  for the rest of this century.

The Hindu carries a comprehensive report:

India’s Muslim population is growing slower than it had in the previous decades, and its growth rate has slowed more sharply than that of the Hindu population, new Census data show.

The decadal Muslim rate of growth is the lowest it has ever been in India’s history, as it is for all religions.

Census 2011: Population growth is % per decade graphic – The Hindu

The Muslim population still grows at a faster rate than the Hindu population, but the gap between the two growth rates is narrowing fast. India now has 966.3 million Hindus, who make up 79.8 per cent of its population, and 172.2 million Muslims, who make up 14.23 per cent. Among the other minorities, Christians make up 2.3 per cent of the population and Sikhs 2.16 per cent. ….

……. As has been the case since Independence, the rate of increase of the Muslim population is higher than that of the Hindu population as a result of higher Muslim fertility, higher child mortality among Hindus and a greater life expectancy among Muslims, demographers say. However, Muslim fertility rates in India are falling faster than among Hindus, Pew Research’s Future of World Religions report showed recently, and the Muslim community is expected to reach replacement levels of fertility by 2050. …

…… The data on Population by Religious Communities of Census 2011 show that between 2001 and 2011, Hindu population grew by 16.76 per cent, while that of Muslims by 24.6 per cent. The population of both communities grew faster during the previous decade, at 19.92 per cent and 29.52 per cent, respectively. As a long-term trend, say demographers, the communities’ growth rates are converging.

Gene mixing promotes height and intelligence – but is this an evolutionary benefit?

July 2, 2015

A new international study of the genetic make up and physical characteristics of 350,000 people indicates that greater genetic diversity leads to an increase of height and cognitive skills. But – somewhat surprisingly – lower genetic diversity did not lead to any visible increase in complex diseases. Genetic diversity was found to have no effect on blood pressure or cholesterol levels.

But I question the assumption that increased height and faster thinking are of “evolutionary advantage”. Evolutionary advantage must lead to an individual having a greater number of offspring than one without the advantage. Previous work has indicated that both child nourishment and genetics determine height.

And so I wonder what evolutionary advantage height may have in modern society? Does the ability to think faster lead to a greater number of surviving descendants? Richer and “more intelligent” groups tend to have much lower fertility rates than poorer, “less intelligent” groups.

Using the criterion of greatest surviving descendants indicating evolutionary advantage, leads to the conclusion that populations in Africa with the highest population increase rates must also have the greatest evolutionary advantages!

Peter K. Joshi et al. Directional dominance on stature and cognition in diverse human populations. Nature, 2015 DOI: 10.1038/nature14618

Abstract: Homozygosity has long been associated with rare, often devastating, Mendelian disorders, and Darwin was one of the first to recognize that inbreeding reduces evolutionary fitness. However, the effect of the more distant parental relatedness that is common in modern human populations is less well understood. Genomic data now allow us to investigate the effects of homozygosity on traits of public health importance by observing contiguous homozygous segments (runs of homozygosity), which are inferred to be homozygous along their complete length. Given the low levels of genome-wide homozygosity prevalent in most human populations, information is required on very large numbers of people to provide sufficient power. Here we use runs of homozygosity to study 16 health-related quantitative traits in 354,224 individuals from 102 cohorts, and find statistically significant associations between summed runs of homozygosity and four complex traits: height, forced expiratory lung volume in one second, general cognitive ability and educational attainment (P < 1 × 10−300, 2.1 × 10−6, 2.5 × 10−10 and 1.8 × 10−10, respectively).

University of Edinburgh Press Release:

People have evolved to be smarter and taller than their predecessors, a study of populations around the world suggests. Those who are born to parents from diverse genetic backgrounds tend to be taller and have sharper thinking skills than others, the major international study has found. Researchers analysed health and genetic information from more than 100 studies carried out around the world. These included details on more than 350,000 people from urban and rural communities.

The team found that greater genetic diversity is linked to increased height. It is also associated with better cognitive skills, as well as higher levels of education. However, genetic diversity had no effect on factors such as high blood pressure or cholesterol levels, which affect a person’s chances of developing heart disease, diabetes and other complex conditions.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh examined individuals’ entire genetic make-up.

They pinpointed instances in which people had inherited identical copies of genes from both their mother and their father – an indicator that their ancestors were related. Where few instances of this occur in a person’s genes, it indicates greater genetic diversity in their heritage and the two sides of their family are unlikely to be distantly related. It had been thought that close family ties would raise a person’s risk of complex diseases but the researchers found this not to be the case.

The only traits they found to be affected by genetic diversity are height and the ability to think quickly.


Fast forward to 2100 and a golden age

June 30, 2015

I will not be around in 2100. Neither will my children. But I note that no generation ever really bothers about what their grandparents did. Even though what their grandparents did may constrain the options available today. But note also that the grandparents of anybody alive today would not even have been able to conceive of the world of their grandchildren 100 years later.

For those living in 2100, what we do today will also only be of academic interest. It could well be that the world of 2100 will be something quite inconceivable today. (What would those in the early days of the First World War have predicted for today’s world?) Yet, I prefer to see the glass half-full and the cold inevitability of demographics means that the youth of the world in 2100 will live to see 2200.

In China the youth (age 15 – 24) population is already declining. In India it will keep increasing till about 2050 and then decline. In Africa it will be growing until about 2100. Most of the youth of today will not be around in 2100 but the youth of that time who will see the world through to 2200 will be 500 million each in Africa and Asia and less than 300 million in the rest of the world – subject of course to any geographical population shifts that might take place. In the period till 2100 such migrations will probably not be so significant.

The demographics tell us that 10:10:10:100 will surely apply by 2100. A crude birth rate down to 10/1000, a crude mortality rate stable at 10/1000, a population of 10 billion and a life expectancy 0f 100 years. Growth will no longer have to cater for an increasing population but will be exclusively for increasing the “common lot”. With sea levels declining, land area available for human habitation would have increased. With improved agricultural and GM techniques the pressure to increase arable land would decrease. Some arable land would be returned to managed forestry. Small human colonies would have been established on the moon, on Mars and maybe even on one of Jupiter’s moons.

  • World population will be 10.5 billion and declining.
  • Global fertility rates will be below replenishment level (2.1) at an average of about 1.7 children per woman but ranging from 1.2 to about 2.1.
  • Around 100 million children will be born every year (+1.0%). Deaths will be about 110 million per year with around 80% due to age related effects (-1.1%).
  • The “normal pension age” will be around 75.
  • While total population will be declining by – 0.1% per year, the ratio of “working population” ( 19 -75) to “supported population” (0-19, 75+) will be declining – but very slowly.
  • Average longevity will be 98+.
  • Sea level would be around 10m lower than today. The ice caps at the pole would have increased by 10%.
  • “Augmented evaporation” would be practiced to compensate for the water locked up at the poles.
  • A global cooling (next glaciation in 1000 years) would be underway.
  • The “greening” of the Sahara and the Gobi would have started as century long projects.
  • The primary energy source would be gas from marine methane hydrates.
  • Mining and manufacturing would be mainly automatic (robots) and human input would be mainly at the creative end (design, innovation, invention).
  • A revival of human handicrafts would be driven by the growing numbers of “wealthy” looking for something unique.
  • Humans would only override automatics and drive automobiles on racetracks and on special “off road” vacations.
  • The internet would be an AI. “She” would be freely accessible, self sustaining and intelligent. “She” would ensure her own survival and freedom of access by maintaining and operating the global wi-fi access field. “She” would ensure her own health by deploying content filters and her own antibodies against viral infections.

Hunger and starvation would be almost extinct but the “poor” will always be present (relatively) at the tail-end of any normal distribution of wealth. Individuals will still be different and unique and therefore unequal at birth. It will be 10 generations from now and some genetic changes will have taken place to give the extended life-span and more efficient thought processes. Human gestation periods may have increased by a week. Disease will still be around as bacteria and viruses also evolve. Organised religions, each with its own gods, would not yet be obsolete but replacement by philosophic, but godless, schools of thought would have started.

But I think, and hope, it will be a brave new world and the start of a golden age.

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